Having launched its first title this month, new online publisher Messy Media wants to bring high-end blogging with mass appeal to a British readership.

Andrew Levy (left) and Lloyd Shepherd (right), Messy Media's co-founders and managing directors, talked to about how they see the future of UK blogging.

How are you going to set your titles apart from the competition?

[LS] There isn't an awful lot of competition in the UK in professionally edited blogs. Shiny Media have obviously done a fantastic job in this space over the last four or five years.

[AL] Blogs have a tendency to be written in the style of: 'this is a blog about walking down the street on odd Sundays in even months'.

They're 'hyper-nichey' and that's something you can accomplish with the internet - going after a highly-targeted audience. You can go at it with quantity, as opposed to quality; you can try and reach a mass audience by having a broad number of titles that go after every niche that's out there.

What we are trying to do is to come up with a smaller group of titles that appeal to more of a mass audience.

How will you attract readers to your blogs?

[LS] On the internet we're in an area where people are very promiscuous with their consumption of media. To what extent we're going to be taking media from somebody else and to what extent we're going to be adding to that audience's overall consumption is an interesting statistical question, which I'm sure we'll be looking at when we've got more numbers to see.

I don't think you could argue that online media in the UK is anywhere near as developed as in the US, both in terms of quality, aspiration, commercial innovation and audience.

Unless one is saying that there's something very different about the British audience, they won't consume stuff online in the same way, you have to look at how it's being made available to them.

You could make a good case that most of the British media companies have not done that great a job - they've done an okay job, but they haven't been genuinely innovative and they haven't genuinely added to the amount of time people want to spend online consuming stuff.

[AL] The proposition is very simple: for us to succeed we have to create content that people are interested in reading.

The battle for eyeballs is just getting a quarter of the people who find that there's something they might want to check in on on a daily basis. That's accomplished by having good writing about interesting topics, and possibly with a unique take on it that nobody else is delivering.

[LS] The UK offline media is one of the most competitive and creative in the world. You have to ask yourself why that hasn't necessarily followed online.

We're only just now starting to see the opportunity to build new creative stuff within new types of technology that are available.

In Britain we've always been a few years behind the US - I've never been entirely sure why we are, maybe it's a cultural thing - but I definitely think it's a time to do new stuff. The online media sector in the UK is going to get more competitive and more innovative.

How do you view your interaction with other news providers and blogs?

[LS] The Google word sits behind a lot of these conversations. It depends on the publisher.

We're sitting here a week after the NYTimes decided to drop its subscription package. A very large reason, if not the biggest reason for that, was their sense that by sticking their commentators behind a pay wall they were somehow losing relevance.

On the internet you gain relevance by being linked to. There's a fairly good symbiotic relationship between bloggers and established media, which is reflected in terms of one linking to the other.

It's quite interesting that the mainstream media has not yet embraced the idea of linking back out the other way in a systematic way.

Having worked at Yahoo and the Guardian, I know that there are always conversations about 'should we aggregate the blogs that are already out there?'

The BBC agonises about this a lot: should they have message boards or should they just be reflecting a conversation that's already happening?

I think the established media obviously benefits from the audience that gets sent to it, but it also benefits from the overall Google and search engine rankings that it gets from lots and lots of incoming links - it's not a tidy relationship.

[AL] If you want to talk about community, doing things like putting links on our site is our way of participating in that community.

There's a tendency today to look at communities as walled communities, like MySpace or Facebook, and the reality is that because of the distributive nature of content and comment on the internet today the community actually has a much wider base.

The front door to that community is your search engine, so we [Messy Media] certainly have our opinions on media and if we find things out there that are interesting to whatever audience might be reading, we want to share those things.

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